Sunday, August 19, 2007

Do the 50-plus really want to be part of an online community?

I am sorry to be posting so much stuff about social networking but it one of the most interesting things around at the moment. Also, I am writing an article on the subject and it provides me with an opportunity to “think aloud”.

Having spent a bit of time on the Saga site I thought I would have a look at This site has been around for some time and had an online community long before they became fashionable. The site even encountered the problems of flaming.

I wanted to get a feel of the activity level of 50connect’s online forums and how widespread they are used by the membership.

Using the site’s search facilities I discovered some interesting things. If I am wrong then I am sure somebody will tell me.

The site has 56,164 registered forum members and contains 10,088 posts in 23 forums.

Of these forums 8 had no posts this month and 7 no posts within the last 5 days. Mmmmm. They are not a hive of activity are they.

To gauge the activity of the membership I looked at the surnames from A-H. This is what I found

Bottom line: a few members, and I mean a very few members, generate all of the activity. If these numbers are correct then it looks as if less than a hundred forum members are creating all of the posting. Surely that cannot be right?

Either - the onsite search is rubbish OR there are significant data problems OR there is a myth that these forums provide a fertile space for marketers to engage with site visitors. OK, for every contributor there will be a lot of lurkers, but how many? What is a reasonable ratio of contributors to lurkers? One in ten, one in a hundred, one in a thousand?

If there is anybody out there, running a social networking site, that can provide some answers it would be great. Out of a declared community membership of 56,000 how many people would you expect to be active contributors?

Maybe odler Brits are a shy bunch and don't like to talk online - any thoughts what the contribution rate would be in the US on Dick Stroud


lisa dunn said...

Hi Dick,
I don't have information on those statistics, but I belong to a social networking blogging site that has grown exponentially over the last year. It's which is a group of blogging Realtors that blog blog blog about real estate, the profession, the industry and for the consumer. Not a group defined by demographics, but by industry. In my opinion, the blogging format is easier to interact with each other than the traditional forum format.
Just thought you might be interested from a sociological point of view.

Ajay said...

Hi, I run a social network for gardeners called Grows on You ( We are very new so I am not sure our numbers are statistically significant but based on initial usage we are seeing approximately 5% of our members contribute on a weekly basis. Our demographic appears to be exactly who you are talking about (older Brits) - Let's hope we stick at the 5% when we get to 56,000 members. Would love that many members :)